One or Many?
R. Brian Lecarpentier

On November 16, 2010, I had the privilege of observing the President of the United States of America, Barack Obama, and the Commander in Chief of the United States Armed Forces award Staff Sergeant Salvatore Giunta the Medal of Honor for selfless acts performed in Afghanistan in October of 2007. Staff Sergeant Giunta is the first living recipient of this award since the Vietnam War.  The reason provided by the Commander in Chief was simply, “He distinguished himself by acts of gallantry at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty.”  These are simple words and in fact, the act exemplifies how each of us should approach life. In a brief summation of the incident, during a fire fight in the Korengal Valley of Afghanistan, this 22 year-old specialist observed his Sergeant being dragged off the battlefield by the enemy after being mortally wounded and responded by killing one enemy combatant and injuring another, and then recovered the then injured but living soldier to a place of safety. In doing such, he negated the possibility and highly probable fact that by completing the task it would cost him to lose his own life, and was struck twice be enemy fire. Staff Sergeant Giuntas’ response to being chosen and subsequently being awarded the Medal of Honor was simply, “I looked around and saw my fellow soldiers doing their jobs, and I just did mine.” Thanks to the Creator for men and women who sacrifice for me, my family, my community, and my Country everyday taking the fight to those who mean to harm one or all.

What does this mean? Personally, I take moments like this to refocus.  Am I a good human being, son, father, husband, friend, employee, citizen, team member, or leader? Am I doing just enough or should I be doing more?  If you have studied human nature, psychology, or any of the social sciences, you have probably heard of a man named Abraham Maslow.  Maslow published a paper or professional journal entitled, A Theory of Human Motivation (1943).  He would probably respond to my questions with a “no.”  He would likely say that motivation is spawned by continuing to evaluate where you are and how you can move to improve to gain self-actualization, the pinnacle of his theory. Where have we heard this before?

Each of us has attended training in some form where the acronym OODA was used. This acronym was coined by Colonel John Boyd (Retired) USAF, out of his experiences in the Korean War as a military strategist. If you have forgotten what OODA stands for, it is OBSERVE, ORIENT, DECIDE, and ACT. However, this is not a modern theory of strategy. Colonel Boyd may be credited with the acronym, but he most likely just understood the lessons of an ancient Chinese General and military strategist named Sun Tzu. You may have heard of him and read his work, Art of War. The collection of military strategies has been studied and mimicked by all manner of military leaders and all manner of modern businessmen since the 6th Century BC.

In October 2007, in the Korengal Valley of Afghanistan, that is exactly what Staff Sergeant Guinta did, OODA. Yet, he would say that without the man next to him he would not have been able to do his job. This is the typical response, “it is about the man next to you”, so many combat veterans have explained in the past and how many Law Enforcement veterans ironically have given testament to after their actions.  When reading this article, you in fact are exercising OODA and probably don’t even know it. Your brain has an autonomic response system that makes a decision every nanosecond about how to live—one in particular is very important. It is called breathing.

So what is the answer? Is it one or many? Staff Sergeant Guinta might say at the time it was about one man, his fallen Sergeant.  He might say it was about his fellow soldiers who were doing their respective jobs.  Regardless, my opinion is that the answer is MANY. Why? Here is why, his oath:

I, (NAME), do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.

Sound familiar, here is the oath you took:

"I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support the Constitution of the United States, and the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Virginia, 
and that I will faithfully and impartially discharge all the duties incumbent upon me according to the best of my ability, (so help me God)."

His selflessness was about MANY—the many he swore to defend; OUR oath is about MANY—the MANY WE swore to defend and provide services in the pursuit to forward society.  Take this one step further, what is an oath?  An oath is a solemn appeal to a deity, or revered person or thing, to witness one’s determination to speak the truth, or to keep a promise.  I am confident that Staff Sergeant Guinta was not thinking of these things during his heroic act.  But I am equally confident that when he chose to leave his home to defend me, my family, my community and my Country, he did so knowing that men and women like each of us would protect his family, his community, and his Country, in his absence.  Likewise, I believe that when each of us stood, raised our right hands, and swore an oath, each of us believed that the person next to them meant to keep that oath, according to the best of our ability.

If you have worked on Midnight Shift over the last 13 months you would have certainly heard me state that we all need to stop immediately after whatever action we are performing and evaluate if there is one more thing, one more task that we can do to provide a better service. Call it what you will—military strategy of the 6th Century BC, organization psychology from the 1940’s, military strategy from the era of the Korean War.  At the end of the day it is about refocusing your efforts to maximize your results positively for you, your family, your community which you live and/or service, and our Country. So my answer is also my challenge to all of us.  Take every opportunity to refocus your efforts to be better humans, sons/daughters, friends, spouses, followers, leaders, and more specifically LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICERS. A friend of mine once told me that if I did not give the ball to someone, they could not play the game; ironically that is more profound and applicable to more subjects than my initial hearing.  If you constantly exercise OODA, in all of the aforementioned roles that you play, particularly as a Law Enforcement Officer, in the positive performance of your duties, you effectually have negated the ability for destructive criticism and change the rules of the game to constructive criticism and praise of your efforts. Men since the dawn and sands of time have escaped their words, but never have they escaped their actions.  It is amazing that it took a man, 22 years old and 8,000 miles away from where I sit, in a battle on foreign soil, to only “do his job” for me to remind myself that I, WE, EACH of us needs to refocus on the OATH in which we publicly gave voluntarily and not rely on the men or women next to us to do their jobs (because they too gave an oath) but to perform at the level that brings credit upon the one thing that you only ever really own and take from this world, your name. Thanks to the Creator for providing men and women who sacrifice for me, my family, my community, and my Country everyday by taking the fight to those who mean to harm one or all.  Thanks to Staff Sergeant Salvatore Giunta, the Medal of Honor recipient. Thanks to the United States Armed Forces, and all Law Enforcement Officers nationwide.  Refocus on what is important; don’t spend time on those things that are not.